PEORIA — Central Illinois artist Jam Lovell spent a month digging a hole for “Rock Bottom Never Quite Provides the Clearest View.”

Recorded with photographs and text, the endeavor will be one of the artworks on display at the Peoria Public Library’s Main Branch during “Piece of Mind: An Exhibit on Mental Health by the Emerging Artists Collective" from Feb. 6 to Feb. 28.

Lovell, who has a bachelor’s degree in painting from Illinois State University and a master's degree in art from Eastern Illinois University, was a resident at the Art Farm in Marquette, Neb., in the summer of 2017 when she created the artwork.

“I spent one month digging a hole in the ground with a shovel by hand,” Lovell wrote in her explanation of the work. “I welded a nest form and wove fabric collected from friends and loved ones around the steel, which I placed in the hole after I finished digging. I invited other residents on the Farm to come sit in the hole, one at a time, and write about their experiences. After 24 hours, some residents helped me bury the nest in the ground where it still remains today.”

“Rock Bottom Never Quite Provides the Clearest View” is about what people perceive when they are in a depressed state, said Lovell. The physical process of digging a hole literally provided the artist with a view of the hole she had dug herself into.

“This was speaking to the way small issues and interactions can add up over time, and if not properly dealt with, will spiral someone into a depressed state that feels like rock bottom,” she said.

The nest, woven with clothing once worn by loved ones, provided comfort. Being in the hole was actually a meditative experience. In the end,  Lovell buried what she needed to leave behind with the help of friends.

Lovell is one of about 30 area artists who will display artwork during the exhibit. When organizers of the Emerging Artists Collective learned they would be hosting a display at the library, they asked members to choose the topic, said Blair Clark, an organizer for the collective.

“We jotted down different themes on sticky notes and put them on a pole and everyone voted on what they wanted the show’s theme to be,” she said. “At another meeting we talked about mental health. There’s so many different ways to look at something, we decided not to look at the stereotypical ideas. Mental health can be both positive and negative. We just had a good conversation, and that’s what this show is going to be on.”

The collective has more than 300 members on its Facebook page, but not everyone attends the group’s monthly meetings, said Clark. The collective was created to be a social network where visual artists come together to encourage, educate, and create more artistic opportunities, she said. Monthly meetings usually include a speaker addressing topics germane to artists working in central Illinois.

Barbie Perry, the co-president of the Illinois Art League and a resident artist at the Prairie Center of the Arts since 2017, is also submitting art to the show, a small paper sculpture titled “seem” and created using collagraph, graphite and ink. Another artist, Monish Vi Jayselan, is submitting a graphite and charcoal drawing called “Joy in Sorrow.”

“I am absolutely convinced that art is a mysteriously powerful tool that transcends us beyond any understanding into an existence where life’s circumstances bear no influence,” Jayselan wrote in his statement about the work. “Art has also been a therapy to me personally. Most of us have undergone some sort of anxiety or depression and I myself have. Searching for some sort of joy and exultation in a lot of things left me feeling empty, until Jesus found me. That’s when I found joy even in sorrow.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.